Step Forward, Harry Salt is the tale of a man with a secret who starts his job at the Ministry of People just as things get steadily more strange and frightening.
The story takes in the hills of the Peak District and Hope Valley before reaching a thrilling climax beneath Chesterfield’s crooked spire.
Its author Ross Lowe was born and bred in Derbyshire. He said: “I love to get out into the Peaks and explore and have done ever since my parents took us up there from the south of the county, where I grew up. It’s an incredible part of the world, filled with so much color It feels alive, and there’s a real sense of being in touch with something very very ancient and powerful out there, as you look across landscapes that feel like they haven’t altered for centuries.
“My family roots on my father’s side have been traced back as far as the 1600s and they all hail from Derbyshire, especially Winster, Youlgreave, Wensley, Ashover, all around there until they moved south to Chester Green in Derby during the 19th century. I’ve always felt drawn to these places, and as the story grew I knew I wanted to take advantage of the magic I felt there, especially around the Hope Valley which I began exploring around a decade ago. in and let your imagination go, and it felt like the right place for the mysterious Ministry of People to hide in plain sight, as part of a well-known local landmark (clue: it has a big chimney!)”
Two decades ago events that were happening in the world and in Ross’s personal life motivated him to write. He said: “There was a new millennium that was filling people with a weird kind of hope, only for 9/11 to happen and terrify everyone a year later, there was Dolly the Sheep and cloning going on, the internet was now everywhere, reality TV was thrusting ridiculous levels of fame and attention onto normal people overnight and changing their lives.On a personal level my parents had recently divorced and my Dad was terminally ill.
“I was just out of university and feeling a little overwhelmed by a world I felt I’d been spat out into. I found writing to be a form of escape from reality and my own little way of trying to make sense of it.
“One weekend, my best friend Jay had come up from London to spend a weekend with me and we were sat in the Carpenter’s Arms in Dale Abbey (near Ilkeston) with a beer each, flinging ideas back and forth. He’s a really clever bloke with a sense of humor every bit as ridiculous as mine.
“I told him about an idea I’d had for a young man who wasn’t who he thought he was: his name was Herbert Sherbert and he worked at a mysterious place called The Ministry of People. I’d really started to explore this idea but wasn’t sure what to do with it, but as I told Jay about it he was thrilled and it was something we kept talking about for months afterwards.
“I started to write it as a series for scripts for a six-part TV series and got stuck, before eventually trying to write it as a novel a few years later. I’d only managed about 13,000 words or so. It then sat around on a hard drive for years doing nothing, just gathering digital dust, until 2018, when it suddenly came up in a conversation with my wife, who I’d only married a few months before. saying that I simply had to finish it.
“I started to get back into it, with her encouragement, Herbert Sherbert quickly became Harry Salt and suddenly the ideas were flowing and I was managing to iron out the problems with the story that I’d struggled with years before.”
Ross summarized work on the story at the beginning of 2018 in Toronto, Canada, where his wife is from, and continued writing in Berlin when his wife landed a job there.
The book was 11,000 words by the time it was published by Belper-based Bearded Badger Publishing.
“The sequel is well underway and I have a third planned out,” said Ross. “However, I became a father in April last year, to a beautiful little girl, and all opportunities to write have gone out of the window for the time being as my wife and I spend all of our time with our daughter. I’m struggling to find the time around my day job as a freelance copywriter and my daughter to get any writing done! out!”
Step Forward, Harry Salt is priced £10, available online at beardedbadgerpublishing.com or from the Bearded Badger Bookshop at the 1924 Building, Belper.